My adventures often take me traveling- sometimes it’s for a short period of time, but the trips lasting multiple weeks (or months) present a problem other than a shrinking bank account: how many books will I read?
Enter the eReader. It’s affordable. It’s small. It holds A LOT of books! But as we live in a capitalist society, we have the inevitable choices that result from market competition (thank goodness). The clear market leaders appear to be the Kindle from Amazon and the Nook from Barnes & Noble. By bouncing between their websites and reading some tech reviews, I have complied the below comparison that I believe to be accurate as of October, 2010 for the lowest priced models.
Basic Kindle: $139
Basic Nook: $149 (both basic models have built-in wireless for downloading new books).
Kindle: 38.5 ounces (less than a paperback)
Nook: 11.6 ounces. For comparison, a big hardback like Breaking Dawn, the last book in the Twilight series, weighs over two pounds.
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Pride and Prejudice
The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Both have a plethora of pretty, protective cases. A case can make it feel more like a traditional, open book in your hands. Also, if you spend a lot of time in Barnes & Noble, get a Nook- you can read any book while you’re in the store for free from cover to cover. While you’re in store discounts and things like free coffee or even free books will appear on the color screen below the reading screen. Technology impaired? You can take your Nook to B&N and get free, live help. Not so with Kindle.
I have no idea. If one of them showed up free on my doorstep, I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed with either reader. For my friend Rebecca, the expandability of the Nook’s memory makes it the clear winner. Since she is a veracious reader, I may just jump on her bandwagon as we can share books easily (mailing the hardcovers to and from Chicago is getting expensive, anyhow). Do you have an ereader? Click on MountainKidd’s first poll to weigh in.
After six full years in the valley of Jackson Hole, Mountain Kidd is relocating to the second biggest city in Wyoming. Since very few people know the second biggest city in Wyoming, I’ll just spill the beans; I’m moving to Casper.
Casper, Wyoming has a population of 53,500 according to the 2010 census. This is a significant number for Wyoming. And yes, I’ll still be “Mountain Kidd”. Casper is located at the north end of the Laramie mountain range. In this range is Casper Mountain, rising 3,000 feet above the city to a total of 8130 feet. 8130 is no Grand Teton. but that’s okay- I’ll adapt.
I’ve lived throughout the Rockies for over ten years and each town has pushed me to develop one skill set or another. In Vail, I was young and made bold job choices. Working full-time as a ski instructor Beaver Creek allowed me to become a technical, proficient skier very very quickly. When summer came around, I paid $200 to take a two-week training course as a whitewater rafting guide. At the end of the two weeks, everyone was granted an interview with the promise that about half of us would be hired on for the summer. With a customer service personality and a deep passion for water in all its forms, I got the job and spent the summer swimming rapids on the Eagle River (not on purpose) and guiding tourists down the Shoshone section of the Colorado. I also bought a whitewater kayak and found that I enjoyed the solidarity of kayaking even more than rafting
There was a brief stint swimming flood-stage whitewater on the New River in West Virgina, but it was clear that I needed to find my next mountain town ‘out west’. Vail was fantastic but I knew the fur coat party scene wasn’t for ultimately for me. I told people I wanted another ski town without so many people and more laid back. Those in the know all said “go to Jackson.” And to Jackson I went.
While Jackson has whitewater, it’s not near as plentiful or accessible as it is in Colorado. But we do have epic mountain biking. Armed with a tricked out Kona mountain bike as a college graduation gift, I took to the trails with vengeance and let whitewater fall to the wayside. I dare say the shift in focus fit my aging process as well. When things go ‘wrong’ on whitewater, it’s game on. The situation instantly becomes exponentially more serious and a rapid set of decisions needs to be made to ensure the continuation of life. As a raft guide, you may need to flip the raft, which involves climbing on top of an upside-down raft, attaching a rope to the side and pulling it on top of yourself as you go back into the water. After this, you need to collect your guests. There’s no question that it’s a high pressure situation. But with mountain biking, a wrong decisions leads to a glorious stand-still. Assuming your friend isn’t about to run you over, a crashed mountain biker can luxuriate in lying on the ground and doing a mental once-over before acting.
Of course, the winter months in Jackson are all about the skiing. I went from a good skier in Michigan to a good skier in Colorado (a considerable jump) during my time at Beaver Creek and I consider myself lucky to have had the time to cut my teeth before coming to Jackson. When people call it the best skiing in the lower 48, they’re right- if you can ski it. Jackson is steep and rugged with limited beginner and intermediate terrain. It’s one reason we’ll never get the skier numbers of Vail- which is fine by us locals. On drops where other resorts would issue series of flashing lights and multiple rope lines, Jackson puts a pole with a small orange “cliff” sign. Skiers that wander off the groomed trail, ski at your own risk. It’s fantastic skiing, but a minor knee injury and the cumulative effect of many long, hard winters has me thinking I may be able to live without flinging myself down mountains on two narrow sticks.
Casper does have world-class Nordic skiing. The Casper Nordic Center has 42 kilometers of groomed trails with a 1.2K lighted loop. So I’ll buy some Nordic gear for the winter months. Maybe I’ll help develop the mountain bike trails in the summer, but Casper does have a whitewater park on the downtown section of the Platte river- it’s fun without the consequences of class V rivers. And Jackson is an easy five-hour drive away. Maybe a mountain lifestyle has more to do with the person than the geographical location.
Nonprofit of the Day: Teton Valley Hapi Trails
No, I didn’t give up my cabin on the creek for a ‘mobile home’. Rather, I’ve been camping in a 21′ Outback trailer, most recently at 9,500 feet while the boys took ‘armed nature walks’ looking for that seasonally elusive animal, the Elk. And trailer life is good.
Although certain things need to be borrowed from the house (pots and pans, for one), the trailer has become host to the stuff we don’t really like but, for some reason, still have. Threadbare towels, plastic wineglasses, ugly potholders and knives that rap knuckles on the cutting board have all found a home in the drawers of the trailer. With a three-burner propane stove top, a temperamental oven, extremely conservative water use, and no electricity (we haven’t gone the generator route… yet), cooking easily takes three times as long as home preparation. And that, I have found, it a wonderful thing.
Take the cookies, for instance. With chilly weather and a tired body, I thought some fresh cookies might be just the thing but had no brown sugar. I was also without cell phone reception and thus unable to Google substitutions. Panic! Not really… Out came an old dog-eared copy of the red plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. The Classic Peanut Butter Cookies had a handy line item: “ 1/2 cup packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup honey”. I was in business. Creaming the fats and sugars with a wooden spoon instead of electric beaters was a wonderfully slow process. Instead of a noisy whir, I watched over the course of about 10 minutes as the batter gained air pockets and slowly turned into the light, fluffy deliciousness that only real butter and 0ld-fashioned sugar can make. My arm was getting a bit tired by the end and I thought about how much more physical energy people had to use in the past to produce a meal. Depending on the decade, a lot, lot more.
I baked off all the cookies with a constant eye on the oven thermometer that now lives in the oven. When they were done, I threw in a classic midwest-worthy chicken and biscuit casserole. It’s like a giant chicken pot-pie without the hassle of the crust and the perfect one-dish meal for meat and potato kind of guys.
Later, the small counter space necessitated that one person dry and stow dishes while the another washes. Standing in the little trailer side by side with no cell phone interrupting for an entire weekend, I enjoyed ‘doing the dishes’ for the first time in a long time. And the Elk? Let’s just say they’ll live to see another weekend.
“Awwww” Site of the Day: The Daily Puppy. It’s all fun and games until somebody pees on a strangers leg…
Dumb Activity of the Day: Browsing the shelter site for dogs in need- anybody need a husky?
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15 miles west of Laramie in the southeastern Wyoming is a climbing area known as Vedauwoo (pronounced vee-da-voo). The name means “Land of the Earthborn Spirit” to the Arapahoe Indians and “insanely sharp rock” to rock climbers like me.
The climbing crag is a fantastically short 20 minute hike from the campground, and as I watched my friends put on tape gloves (which is exactly what it sounds like), I commented that I had never worn them. The guys in the group casually mentioned that I would probably want them while the lawyer in our midst quoted the guide book with something like “wear tape gloves to avoid certain and severe hand mutilation”. Point taken, I received one assembling tape glove lesson and proceeded to do a crappy imitation on my other hand. Oh well.
I can’t say my first climb was stellar. Vedauwoo is primarily a crack area and there was no subtly to the first few cracks we explored. Some climbing features intricacies involving delicate weight balancing and sequential movements. These cracks were nothing like that. As I repeatedly shoved my hand past cheese grater rock and contorted my ankles to shimmy my body up that stupid wall, I questioned why I ever said that I enjoyed crack climbing.
Frustrated and pumped out, I called the first day quits after just four routes and headed back to the camper to drink beer, which was delicious. Although the second day featured a better classic climb, I have come to the conclusion off-the-couch crack climbing at Vedauwoo is crap.
A friend told me she heard that Banff was “even more beautiful than Jackson”, which immediately raised my hackles as I tend to take everything a bit too personally. How dare she suggest anywhere more beautiful than Jackson Hole, a place I pay a small fortune to call home! However, after a majestic week in Banff, Alberta, Canada, I have to admit that she may have heard something fairly accurate.
Although we started out in Calgary, a dazzling polite city where no one jaywalks (ever), our hearts were into the Banff portion of the trip and we spontaneously splurged for a 30-minute helicopter tour outside of Banff National Park. It was awful. And by awful, I mean amazing and worth every penny. I was granted the front seat next to the pilot and the exposure buff in me LOVED cresting a mountaintop ridge to see the world drop beneath the window at my feet.
Although most anything would seem anticlimactic after a helicopter ride, Banff didn’t disappoint. For those familiar with Jackson hikes, I describe it as this: hike 20 minutes up Death Canyon overlooking Phelps Lake, then place a complete town with everything from Gucci to McDonald’s.
Banff is completely nested in amazing mountain views with the spectacularly colored Bow River running though the middle. Although the main street, Banff avenue is as packed as Jackson’s Town Square in July, some of the nicer hotels just 10 minutes away offer solstice for those more interested in mountain scenery than accessible shopping. We stayed at the Rim Rock Resort Hotel and would absolutely choose it time and time again.
And what’s with Canadians being so nice? No wonder the European and Japanese crowds prefer Canada; these people have infinite patience and kindness. Banff is building up their single-track trails for mountain biking and when we half-destroyed a decent rental bike (bye-bye derailleur), they cheerfully responded that all repairs were included in the reasonable bike rental cost. However, my favorite part of Banff was the Canadian attitude towards National Park and the teahouse they allowed at the top of a spectacular hike.
At 5.5 kilometers each way (3.4 miles), the hike to The Plain of Six Glaciers climbs 370 m (1215 ft) to a maximum elevation of 2100 m (6890 ft). It takes about 1.5-2 hours each way for most folks and I would classify it as moderately strenuous. The trail head is gorgeous Lake Louise but the hike quickly climbs after leaving the lake area. Because of this, I expected the tourists to start dropping off like flies. However, the Japanese tourists in Banff are a bit hardier than the American tourists in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
There were Japanese grandmas and little kids hoofing it up this hike. Amazing. And they were well rewarded. As the hike was a spur-of-the-moment decision, our uninformed and cynical American selves half expected the ‘teahouse’ at the top to be a dilapidated building with a marker explaining its historic significance. Not so. The teahouse was a legitimate if small restaurant with sandwiches, warm biscuits with jam and butter and, of course, tea. A placard told us that they helicopter in flour, sugar and such at the start of the summer and backpack in the rest. The waitresses and owner/operators live in small cabins around the tea house 5 days a week and hike down on their days off. I reasoned that if rewarded with such a teahouse at the top of Teton hikes, I might hike a little more often. With responsible stewardship on behalf of the vendor, what would be so bad about motivating hikers in Grand Teton and Yellowstone for a few select hikes? Opinions? Submit a comment below.
Super-cute-athletic-clothing-company of the day (men and women): Lululemon
I’ve been so busy having fun that I have neglected to blog about my fun. My apologies and promise that there is quite a bit of fresh new content on the way!
I ran a half-marathon, which is 13.1 miles. Bear in mind that the last time I ran competitively (and I use that term loosely), I was partially motivated by the fun of eating bacon while running. Not shockingly, the half-marathon didn’t involve any bacon. Bummer.
I decided to do the run on my dear friend Niki’s birthday. I will shamelessly admit that she was less than sober when she agreed to accompany me- thus committing me as well. The run was six weeks out and although we had just completed a 10K called Shirly’s Heart Run, neither of us had ran much further than a 10K. Ever.
I started training with some beta from other distance runners- they said if I ran 5 miles, 5 times a week, I would do fine. Later someone added that I really should include a 9 mile run in there, so a week before the big day I ran my happy dog 9 miles. We were tired. Wendell (my dog) asked if I was sure I could run further. I wasn’t. Damn dog.
However, on the day of the race, the weather gods smiled down and bestowed their greatest running gift- overcast skies with the slightest of showers for the first 30 minutes. Having never run so far in our lives, we started with a conservative pace and maintained it throughout the race. After one hour, we both ate a Gu shot. I personally think they are delicious (especially the espresso love flavor- caffeine bonus!), but many would disagree. What people don’t disagree on is that after 45 minutes, your body needs something. Taken with water, these go down quick and are nicely balanced to keep you performing at the top of your game.
So the final results? We finished and helped a good cause (Teton Valley nonprofits raise money from donors and all monies are matched). The course was great; it started out on the highway but happily included quite a bit of dirt-road running. Race supporters are amazing people and I plan on giving back someday. We weren’t fast, but we felt good when we finished and made some happy Saturday morning memories together. That’s really all that matters, anyhow.
Caffeine tidbit of the day (from the Gu site): Caffeine helps the body produce more power, reduce the pain of hard efforts, and may even tap fat for fuel during exercise. All of this prolongs your ability to exercise at a high intensity.
Some people can observe the way the majority of the world completes a task, evaluate the method and successfully mimic it. I am not one of those people. Professional life aside, I would say I’m not really one to think the little things through. It is more my style to plunge in head first with little to no forethought and later say something like, “you know, there may be something to this one-leg-at-a-time method of putting on pants.”
Take my recent revelation regarding cross-training. As an athlete I acknowledged the similarities between mountain-biking and downhill skiing. After all, the upper/lower body separation and mental component to evaluating the rapidly changing terrain is pretty undeniable. But here in Wyoming, there tends to be a bit of a lag time between ski and mountain bike season (unless you’re a die-hard “hike to wherever the snow is” skier- I am not), which means by the time I am pedaling up a steep hill, my legs no longer have the ski spirit. And then I got a road bike.
Technically, my Kona Jake is not a road bike but a cyclo-cross bike (thanks Andy and crew at Wilson Backcountry), but for me it’s close enough. During our crazy long spring that finally concluded at the end of June, I was able to pedal my bike on the dry-ish concrete rather than feverishly checking the trails to see if they were dry enough to pedal (it’s bad karma to bike on a muddy trail and a good way to ruin it for everyone). When the trails finally dried up, I set out solo for my typical early-season huff-and-puff on my favorite little trail, putt-putt.
Early season biking, even on putt-putt, is tough. Typically this first few rides are accompanied by an inner monologue going something like this:
“Is this the big hill? It better be because this is hard. Oh crap, that was the little hill BEFORE the big hill. Was it always this hard or do I forget how much it hurts over the winter? Why do I like this sport again? Keep riding and the next ride will be that much easier… don’t stop don’t stop you big chicken- it’s only putt-putt…”
But this time, the inner monologue was silenced. It seems that all the pedaling on the concrete translated to cardio-strength and leg muscle for the mountain bike. I virtually flew up the big hills with September like strength. Whoa. If I had known that road biking would help my mountain biking season start off with a bang, I would have bought one many moons ago. But I didn’t think it through. Just like I didn’t think through playing the piano while eating licorice last night. School of hard knocks, I am ready to graduate.
With a few extra hours on my hands, I had decided to take my running up the road and around Taggart Lake in Grand Teton National Park. Suddenly very hungry, I had to make an unplanned stop for a little pre-run nourishment. While I was waiting for the deli to make the sandwich, I spied my favorite salt and vinegar kettle chips. Yum. Then those clever retail people put mini-Snickers for .25 cents at the register. I rationalized that I would eat the Snickers as a post-run treat. Yeah right.
Driving while eating doesn’t exactly equate to mindfulness, and before I knew it the chips and sandwich were gone. The Snickers was feeling awfully squishy so I was forced to eat that before it got any warmer and completely melted. It was the responsible thing to do. 15 minutes later I set out for a 4 mile trail run with a fair amount of up and down in 90 degree heat. While hindsight is always 20/20, I do feel I should have recognized that I wasn’t setting myself up for success.
I hadn’t drank enough water with my food and the bulbous mass in my stomach had decided the best way to deal with the dire circumstances was to condense into a small, compact hardened mass. It was an odd sensation. The mass figured that with its combined momentum, the side-to-side motion would make my stop running sooner than if it had been more evenly distributed. Different from running cramps, my stomach muscles were actually getting sore from holding the mass inside my body. I would slow to a walk on the steep, full-sun uphills to have the pain temporarily eased but fantasized about how much better I would feel if the mass decided to retaliate by making me throw up. My only concern is that I might traumatize some tourists into never, ever trail running. It would also attract bears to the trail, which is never a good thing. What to do?
I’m happy to report there is no new bear attraction on the trail to Taggart Lake. I kept running and cursed my lack of thought knowing that every run after this would be much, much easier.
HILARIOUS Ad of the Day: Old Spice “Smell Like a Man” (click to view)
Embarrassing Tidbit of the Day: I saw Eclipse, the newest movie in the Twilight series last night at midnight with a bunch of teenagers. And I liked it.
It all started with an innocent phone call. On the other end was the boyfriend’s cousin with a “I’m driving cross-country after college graduation”. As we were driving east and she west, we made plans to meet up in about 30 minutes at a place famous for fantastic chili (and not much more) known as Chugwater, Wyoming.
When we pulled in, I noticed the cousin’s driving companion was adjusting the bike rack. And by “adjusting”, I mean he was grabbing various parts, shaking them and furrowing his brow. He was inexperienced with this particular system, so I casually glanced over the setup, which revealed the truth. He was a bike rack idiot. (B.R.I.)
The bike rack was an earlier version of the picture above and the most obvious problem concerned the ratcheting strap on the rear tire of the bike. The ratcheting strap on this particular model features a flat side with a “T” like molding that slides onto the underside of the rail. This allows one to firmly clamp the back tire to the rail. B.R.I. didn’t have the strap plugged into the rail, so it hung as a sort of loose bracelet with air on all sides. The reason B.R.I. even thought to look at the rack was an 8-year-old kid approached him at the gas station and said there bikes were falling off which led to the “grab and shake” repair method I was witnessing.
I diagnosed the problem and said the straps needed to slide into the rail, to which he said “I don’t really know what you mean”. At least he knew his limitations. I told him that I know it sounded like a big pain, but we had to take the bikes off the rack and take the rack partially apart. By this point the boyfriend stopped chatting with his cousin to see why I was tearing apart the top of their car. He glanced at it, found my eyes and gave an “oh shit, we’re going to be here for a while” look.
With the bikes and trays off the car, we slid the straps onto the rail and adjusted the positioning of the trays, at times giving B.R.I. instructions in an attempt to expedite the process. His typical response was, “I don’t know what you’re saying,” which prompted one of my witchier comments of all time.
“Not an engineering major, I take it.”
Really? Did I have to say that?
He was a drama major.
This prompted a lively gender-role discussion after we departed the college graduate. The boyfriend thought the cousin (female) would have “figured it out” if we hadn’t been there, to which I pointed out that she didn’t “figure it out” when they put the bikes on the car in the first place. He thought the the B.R.I. probably took care of it all and she didn’t give it a second glance as she trusted his male handy-man skills. I said that anytime a drama major is assembling something, I would have and will be examining it very, very closely. My apologies to any drama majors I may have offended and if you yourself happen to be a B.R.I., it’s okay; just ask for help to avoid injury to your bike, car and America’s driving public.
I don’t love running, but I love that it’s low-cost, easy to do and almost year round. I also believe it’s an efficient form of exercise. I believe this so thoroughly that I assumed running a 10K (about 6.2 miles) would burn calories. However, in the home of the fit, known as Boulder, Colorado, I was able to debunk this myth.
When I was told that a group of friends annually ran a popular 10K known as the Bolder Boulder, I said I was in and mentally reminded myself to continue running the weeks before the race. In the weeks leading up to the race, I casually asked one member of the group if they trained much for the race. He laughed in my face.
The Bolder Boulder can be a serious race. I would like to think the runners from Kenya who finished the race in 28.13 minutes took it seriously (that’s 4.34 minute miles… for 6.2 miles in a row). But the Bolder Boulder can also be a circus. That was the race I was in. And I was running for bacon.
Bacon was not the sponsored cause for the Bolder Boulder but rather my personal mission once the face-laugher told me what the race was really about. I was going to find bacon and eat it while running. Thus it came to pass that my Bolder Boulder in-race tally came to include the following: bacon (turkey and pork), cotton candy (pink), beer (Fat Tire!), Doritos (nacho cheese) and a few other items I’m sure I’m forgetting. Along the way, my motivation/cheering came from Jake and Elwood, belly dancers, way too much 80’s cover rock, bag pipes and a complete marching band, to name a few. I also hit one slip-and-slide with vengeance. It was a fabulous Monday.
Cumulatively, I’m sure the 50,000 Bolder Boulder participants burned a few calories on Memorial Day. I roughly calculated my caloric burn to be about 550 calories (using the formula .75 x your weight (in lbs.) for each mile from this Runner’s World article). But my team also ate a few, and it was fun. With our bathroom and bacon stops we finished, as a team, in one hour and 20 minutes. The Ethiopians were much (much) faster and some were much slower, but ultimately there was a lot of fun had by all and I saw more than a few people pushing themselves towards a healthy goal. If there needs to be a little bacon involved, so be it.